James Elder in the southern Gaza Strip while being interviewed by the BBC on Monday.

A UNICEF representative in the Gaza Strip said he had never seen so many children so seriously injured by conflict.

"I don't think in my 20 years with UNICEF I've seen this many children with war wounds," James Elder, a spokesman for the organization who arrived in the Gaza Strip a few days ago, told the BBC on Monday.

On Sunday, Elder visited the northern part of the territory, the hardest hit by Israel's offensive in response to Hamas' attack on Oct. 7.

"When a mortar shell hits your apartment block, your house, it's multiple injuries to a child. They're broken bones, but they're also shrapnel [wounds], they're horrendous burns for children," he added.

Elder described hospitals in the northern Gaza Strip as "war zones" where both parking lots and outdoor spaces are filled with makeshift emergency rooms.

"Children in hospitals need a lot more medical supplies than we are receiving. (...) Doctors need these things urgently. I'm seeing doctors in emergency rooms making decisions while they're making a calculation between who might survive and who might not, and that includes children," Elder said.

Israel and Hamas began a four-day truce on Friday and extended it for two more days on Monday.

The period included the exchange of more than 50 hostages held by Hamas for the release of 150 Palestinians held in Israeli jails. Both groups include women and minors, primarily.

"I was yesterday in a church in the north, in a hospital that had also been hit [by shells]. It's an emergency room. I talked to a 7-year-old boy who lost his mom, lost his dad and his twin brother. And I asked her aunt, 'Why are you constantly closing your eyes while you're talking?' And she said, 'He's so terrified that he's going to forget what his mom and dad were like, that he wants to close his eyes and keep imagining them, not lose them in his mind as much as he lost them in real life,'" Elder said.

"Sadly, those stories spread from north to south throughout the Gaza Strip," he said.

Between the beginning of the conflict and November 22, it is estimated that more than 5,300 children died in the Gaza Strip as a result of the war, according to figures released by UNICEF.

The children's advocacy organization also said they have reports of about 1,200 children still under the rubble.

"The destruction of Gaza and the killing of children will not bring peace to the region," Elder said.

On the Israeli side, the government reported some 1,200 deaths at the hands of the Islamist group Hamas.

"Today, the Gaza Strip is the most dangerous place in the world to be a child," UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell told the UN Security Council on Wednesday.

Elder wondered if the "natural impulse" to protect children is being lost in the world, and urged Israel to safeguard the little ones.

"Take the hostages home, but make sure we don't see continued devastation for children in Gaza," he said.

"Are you here to stop the war?"

Photo: Prensa Latina

The UNICEF representative described the scenario he saw in the Gaza Strip as "really difficult."

"It's just trauma and stress. Anxiety is written on people's faces," he said.

"People are desperate, they've lost everything. They have lost their homes. Almost everyone I talk to has lost a loved one," he added.

Elder called the truce agreed between the sides "a respite where people are looking for their loved ones, their lost children" and that he wants the pause to turn into a ceasefire.

The official said that on his tour of this area of the Palestinian territory, people approached him speaking in English and asked: "Are you here to stop the war?"

"Of course my answer is, 'No. Your life is decided by people from other places. We're here to deliver help and I guess to stop the bleeding.'"

According to Elder, the three things Gazans ask for are food, water and fuel, the latter because it is used in desalination plants to provide drinking water to the population.

"That's a turning point. Now I see a lot of kids with serious gastrointestinal illnesses, so clean water is a game changer and fuel equals clean water," he said.

The UNICEF official said he saw both "grandparents carrying their grandchildren" and "children pushing the elderly and sick in wheelchairs" fleeing the northern and southern Gaza Strip.

Although he said that it is difficult for them to make the decision to leave everything and leave.

"People just don't want to leave the house and I would understand why. Who wants to leave their home and everything they've worked so hard for, especially when you're going to come south and be in what used to be a school or a technical college, and now there's 40,000 people where your 15-year-old daughter is going to be queuing for five hours to go to the bathroom?"

Photo: Sputnik.

Video, message from Unicef

(Taken from BBC Mundo)

Forced displacement in Gaza, a prelude to genocide

Several non-governmental organizations today denounced the displacement of 1.7 million Palestinians from the Gaza Strip. Photo: Taken from Prensa Latina

Several non-governmental organizations today denounced the displacement of 1.7 million Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, which they considered the preamble to the Israeli government's plans for genocide.

We strongly warn about the forced displacement of Palestinians in Gaza as part of the Israeli leadership's stated intention to commit genocide, the NGOs said in a joint statement.

The institutions cited the recent warning of 880 academics, UN experts and human rights groups from various latitudes about such a strategy.

The actions on the ground, combined with explicit calls by Israeli leaders for ethnic cleansing in that territory, confirm a possible mass deportation of the civilian population to Egypt or a permanent transfer of civilians from northern to southern Gaza, both in clear violation of international law, the text warned.

Evacuation orders to the southern areas are ineffective, illegal and essentially a tool for forced relocation, said the statement, signed by, among others, al-Haq, the al-Mezan Centre and the Community Action Centre.

In this regard, he recalled that the International Committee of the Red Cross also warned about the danger of such calls.

The forced displacement and denial of return of internally displaced persons are violations of international law and may even be considered a crime against humanity under Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the NGOs said.

Both Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sissi and Foreign Minister Sameh Shourky repeatedly warned Israel about expelling Palestinians living in Gaza and called for an immediate ceasefire.

Last week, Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly warned Egypt that such a strategy is a threat to his country and said it would face a decisive response.

From the beginning of the escalation of violence, we realized that the goal is to push the Palestinians towards the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula, he stressed while addressing the House of Representatives.

"Egypt totally and absolutely rejects the displacement of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip to Egyptian territory and rejects any and all Israeli measures to force Palestinians to do so, and considers this to be a threat to Egyptian territory and sovereignty," he stressed, according to Prensa Latina.

Some 35,000 wounded in Gaza need treatment

Around 35,000 wounded people in the Gaza Strip are in need of treatment following the collapse of the health system amid the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip, Health Minister Mai Alkaila said.

On the other hand, the official praised the efforts of the Egyptian Ministry of Health which, so far, has welcomed 470 Palestinians in its hospitals.

He also stressed that the entity is in constant contact and that it has taken advantage of its capabilities to receive them.

In addition, during his inspection of the wounded in Egyptian hospitals, Alkaila expressed hope that the discharge of more wounded from Gaza will be coordinated in the coming days.

The minister also referred to the devastated health system as a result of the attack, as 26 hospitals out of 35 in the territory remain out of service.

Gaza is at high risk of explosive outbreaks of infectious diseases.

❌Intense overcrowding and the disruption of health, water, and sanitation systems are exacerbating the situation.

Food shortages are making people weak from hunger and more likely to get sick. @WHO... pic.twitter.com/WPsKCqTe4m

— WHO in occupied Palestinian territory (@WHOoPt) November 28, 2023

This is in addition to severe shortages of food, water, medicine and medical supplies. There is also a lack of health personnel, the absence of medical consultations and the piling up of waste around hospitals.

In that regard, the World Health Organization warned that more people are at risk of dying from disease than from the bombing of Gaza, if the territory's health system is not restored.

Gaza health authorities considered reliable by the United Nations say more than 15,000 people have been confirmed to have been killed in Israel's bombardment of Gaza, about 40% of them children, and many more dead are feared to be lost under the rubble.

"Eventually we will see more people die from diseases than we see even from bombing if we are not able to rebuild this health system," the WHO's Margaret Harris told a U.N. briefing in Geneva.

It reiterated its concern about an increase in outbreaks of infectious diseases, in particular diarrhoeal diseases.

Citing a UN report on the living conditions of displaced residents in northern Gaza, he said: "(There are) no medicines, no vaccination activities, no access to clean water and hygiene, no food. We saw a very high number of cases of diarrhea among infants," she said.

He described the collapse of Al Shifa hospital in northern Gaza as a "tragedy" and expressed concern over the detention of some of its medical staff by Israeli forces during a WHO evacuation convoy.

Meanwhile, the humanitarian organization Save the Children said the failure of the international community to agree on a ceasefire is "costing thousands of lives."

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